With their division rival Boston Red Sox augmenting their bullpen with two offseason trades, the New York Yankees made a deal of their own to strengthen their already formidable relief corp. Justin Gorman fills us in on the details of the Aroldis Chapman deal.
At the close of business on December 28, the Yankees announced that they had acquired closer Aroldis Chapman from the Reds for a package of circus peanuts. This solidifies an already back-end heavy bullpen, adding the Cuban Missile (or is it Gun?) Crisis to the likes of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. With a nod to ESPN’s John Buccigross, those three topped the list of “Most Strikeouts by a Relief Pitcher in 2015” – Betances fanned 131, Chapman 116, and Miller whiffed a scant 100.
Brian Cashman may have spun a gem with this deal, as the Yankees gave up 23-year old infielder Eric Jagielo, who spent last year in Double-A Trenton sporting a .284/.347/.495 line and 22-year old RHP Rookie Davis, who went a combined 8-7 in 24 starts between High-A Tampa and Trenton, with a 3.86 combined ERA and 1.209 WHIP. These two names are worth mentioning first because MLB.com did list them as the Yankees’ #6 and #10 prospects, respectively, going into 2015. BaseballProspectus.com did not afford either such a courtesy. The Yankees also threw in infielder Tony Renda and 27-year old career minor league RHP Caleb Cotham for posterity.
Chapman will be a free agent after the 2016 season, and his 500-mph fastball will command top dollar on the market. The Yankees may well see Chapman as their closer of the future, ostensibly a replacement for the legendary Mariano Rivera. Red Sox fans who believe Dave Dombrowski already paid too much for Craig Kimbrel will most certainly be incensed, but it is worth remembering that unlike Chapman, Kimbrel is under contract through the 2017 season, with a club option for 2018.
The price on Kimbrel, with that type of contractual control, was justifiably higher than Chapman. However, while it seems the Yankees pulled off a coup by keeping their high-end prospects in their system and acquiring such an impact arm at a bargain basement price, Chapman is currently under investigation by MLB for domestic assault, which could subject him to a suspension during the 2016 season. The investigation is ongoing, but Chapman has admitted his role in part to police, and the allegations alone create enormous questions as to Chapman’s character – a set of circumstances that the Yankees decided were worth rolling the dice on. In fact, should Chapman indeed face a suspension, the terms of that suspension may enable the Yankees to control him through 2017 – again a very significant gamble.
After a few years of relative calm in the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry, this flurry of offseason activity may serve to light the fire once again. At the very least, the Red Sox (Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Carson Smith, Craig Kimbrel) and Yankees (Betances, Miller, Chapman) will be sporting elite back-ends to their bullpens, making the late innings very fun to watch.